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Minister Has It Half Right - Peters

Minister Has It Half Right - Peters

New Zealand First leader and Tauranga MP, Rt Hon Winston Peters, says the Transport Minister’s announcement of government funding for the Harbour Link project represents progress, but only goes half way towards what can actually be done.

Mr Peters’ comments follow the Transport Minister’s announcement that the government will partially fund the Harbour Link. The rest is to be repayed through tolls, despite the fact that the road has been designated a State Highway.

“Motorists reeling from petrol prices that have increased by over one third since Labour came into power are again faced with additional costs in the form of tolls.

“The government has it only half right. The bridge is a State Highway and should therefore be fully funded by the government.

“I have asked the Minister on countless occasions in the House why the bridge had not been designated as a State Highway, despite Transit’s recommendations.

“The Minister has forced this compromise in the Bay of Plenty by arguing that the funding is not there when it demonstrably is.

“It is regrettable that his speech is loaded with such self-serving politics, which even the gullible will see through,” said Mr Peters.


(Attached: Hansard of the questions Mr Peters asked the Transport Minister in the House last week)

Transport Funding—Increase Since Change of Government
11. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: By how much has transport funding increased since the change in Government in 1999?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): Total spending is up to a record $1.7 billion this year, which is more than 80 percent higher than when we took office.
Hon Mark Gosche: What progress has been made on major Auckland projects, compared with the 1999-2000 year?
Hon PETE HODGSON: One way to measure a Government’s determination to get things done is to look at major projects. All Governments are capable of putting in another passing lane or straightening a bend, but the big projects, which are defined as costing more than $30 million dollars, tell quite a different story. When we came to office the value of big projects in Auckland that were under way or recently completed totalled $130 million. Today, using exactly the same criterion, the big projects under way or recently completed total $1,300 million, which is a tenfold increase. That shows very clearly just which Government was responsible for Auckland’s gridlock and just which Government is addressing it.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Does the Minister feel that comparing absolute dollars today with figures from last century is about as sensible as saying: “Mine’s bigger than yours was then, but yours was bigger than ours was the time before that, and yours was bigger than ours the time before that.”, and why do we not get back to comparing what Nordmeyer and Nash spent between 1957 and 1960, which was only £85 million?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is true that the more than 80 percent increase I gave the House is the nominal figure. If the member wants the real figure, it is a mere more than 65 percent. But it does not matter at all which way one looks at it; we are now addressing a land transport infrastructure deficit that was created during the time that the member who asked the question was Minister, and the underlying reason was that he was a member of a Government that had its mind on tax cuts—as it has now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell the House why the Transit board, which includes the president of the New Zealand Labour Party, has overruled the Transit executive management recommendation that the Tauranga Harbour Bridge be designated a State highway, as it fully met all the criteria to be funded from the land transport programme, if the whole programme behind this, from the Government’s point of view, is not a giant confidence trick?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The only advice I have received from the Transit board, or management, is that it believes that there are two choices for the harbour link in Tauranga. One is to build it now, with tolling, and one is to build it later, without. Later, according to Transit, means starting more than 10 years from now, and tolling would mean, if it were to occur, the bridge being opened in 2009. That is the advice from Transit. What is more, when the public of Tauranga were asked what they thought was a good idea, 72 percent thought it was a good, or a very good, idea to toll and 22 percent thought it was a bad, or a very bad, idea to toll. So 72:22 is a pretty clear result, although 2 percent did not know.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister name one example of a place in this country that has two State highways on each side of a bridge where the bridge is not a State highway, and stop the obfuscation that says to the Western Bay: “You can have a bridge only if it’s tolled.”, and why does he not support the fact that the president of the Labour Party and that jacked-up board designed to get past their own advice so they would not have to pay for it right now?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is true that if we did not have a toll on the bridge we could build a bridge, none the less, but we could not build it today. That is the choice. What is more, the issue of State highways is entirely irrelevant, because the first toll road, which was approved by this Government only a few months ago, happens to be State Highway 1 from Ôrewa through to Pûhoi. The construction of that road through some very difficult tiger country is now under way, whereas without tolling, it would not be.
Nandor Tanczos: How much has spending on passenger transport increased since the Greens and Labour began cooperating on transport issues? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order, please. I am sure members all want to hear the answer to this question.
Hon PETE HODGSON: Spending on rail is up nearly 150 percent. Spending on bus and ferry services is up nearly 250 percent. The walking and cycling percentage increases do not exist, because under National there was no spending. If one adds capital expenditure on double tracking, busways, etc., total expenditure this year is set to top a quarter of a billion dollars. I acknowledge the consistent support of the Green Party in passenger transport’s come-back.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that you are not responsible for answers, but I wonder whether the Minister might clarify it. I certainly took it from that answer that Labour’s next tax move will be to tax cyclists and pedestrians.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but if the member wishes to raise a supplementary question, that is fine. But I think that his colleague the Hon Maurice Williamson has the call.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Do some of those amazing Auckland projects the Minister has referred to include State Highway 20, Mount Roskill extension, which Transit stated would start “this year” on its website back in 2000, which Transit stated on its website in 2001 would start “later this year”, which a glossy brochure dated 31 October 2001 stated would start “in May next year” and take 3 years and be opened by May 2005, which Transit has stated three times since then—including in a brochure that went to every household in Auckland—would start this year, and which, as all members of this House will know, has not yet started?
Hon PETE HODGSON: They just cannot take the good news, can they? Fifteen projects are going on in Auckland and huge numbers of—[Interruption]
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: You cannot hear, either.
Rodney Hide: This is going to be good. I think we should all try to listen to it.
Madam SPEAKER: Could members please keep the level of interjections down a bit.
Hon PETE HODGSON: They just cannot take the good news, can they? Auckland’s major project expenditure is up tenfold from the day we took office. The number of projects under way is now way higher than it ever was. The number of projects that are coming in ahead of time is now higher than it was. The number of projects new to the 10-year planning coming on, is higher than it was. But what do Opposition members do? They pick on the one roading project that went backwards, because there was a problem with another piece of legislation concerning a volcanic cone. That is the one thing they can do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why should the people of Mount Maunganui and Tauranga, who have paid for the old bridge, Route P, and all the rest with the tolls, have to put up with this confidence trick from his appointed body of changing the designation of the bridge not to be a State highway, when his Government allows the pouring into this country of 155,000 imported cars every year, most of which go to Auckland, and 40,000 to 50,000 immigrants every year, who go mainly to Auckland; why should we in Tauranga pay for that, and when will he agree to the New Zealand First proposition that the new bridge should be paid for straight out of State highway funds, and now?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The choice we presented to the good people of Tauranga was: “Would you like your bridge now with tolls, or would you like it later without?”, because that is how it is ranked. The good people of Tauranga voted, by a margin of 72:22, to have it now and to have it tolled. They said to the Government: “What’s more, we need more land transport infrastructure than that.” The Government has begun a process to see whether we should assist and, in due course, we will give an answer to that question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the survey done of the good citizens of Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, which demonstrates that at no time were they asked the question: “Do you want the Government to pay for your new bridge?”.
Leave granted.

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